Friday, August 31, 2018

Kleptocracy Loves Mercenaries, Who Love $$$$$

One of the billionaire families currently infesting what was once billed (but never fulfilled the promise of being) a government of, by and for the people has produced two dangerous individuals: Betsy DeVos, an uneducated education secretary, and her brother Erik Prince. He feeds at the public trough by supplying the Pentagon with an endless supply of mercenaries to kill people in other countries.

Both have been in the news this week.

Protesters at George Mason University in Virginia greeting U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos this week. Photo: Mike Theiler, Reuters

DeVos, a traitor to her gender, proposed new guidelines for handling rape on U.S. college and university campuses. Her new rules protect the accused and the college at the expense of young women who are sexually assaulted while trying to pursue the education that DeVos never got. The fact that she has not matriculated may explain why she is curiously devoid of empathy toward victims of this all too common trauma. (Actually, its probably her inherited billions that have rendered her devoid of empathy.)

Anyone who has been to college knows someone who was raped there. As a 30-something friend of mine observed, "I can't believe _____ has that job now! In college, I wouldn't have trusted that guy to hold my drink."

Even more menacing than the defender of rapists is the mercenary Prince.

Blackwater catapulted to fame following the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad in 2007.

His firm changes its name regularly to evade responsibility for atrocities conducted amid the fog of debt-financed war. Blackwater created atrocities in Iraq, then morphed to Xe Services, now Academi. No matter what his corporation is named, taxpayers for generations to come will be helping to pay to satisfy Prince's greed.

In Afghanistan, the demagogue with bad hair is threatening to privatize the military forces the U.S. keeps there because what we're currently doing 17 years in "isn't working." Note: it's working fine for those who profit from war. But, no, the U.S. hasn't won the hearts and minds of many Afghan people, and the Taliban continues to expand its control of territory. Suicide bombings in Kabul recently killed scores of civilians -- including young people taking an exam.

Maybe Kabul will be Prince's Waterloo. No foreign invaders have ever succeeded in subduing the indigenous population of Afghanistan, earning that mountainous country a reputation as "the graveyard of empires."

But a for-profit corporation isn't an empire, is it? The longer the endless war on "terror" continues, the better for Prince and his cronies.

Zara Ibrahim, head of the Association of Women Against War, in her office, Agadez, Niger, January 2018. Photo: Joe Penney. Source: The Intercept

The U.S. empire though, that's another story. It's building a $100 million drone base in Niger as I write these words, and in fact drone attacks on civilians are at an unprecedented high. Also the other corporations that profit from war are doing a booming business selling, for instance, the bombs that Saudi Arabia rains down on starved and cholera infected children in Yemen.

Federal employees won't get a raise this fiscal year, but executives for war profiteers will get hefty bonuses and new yachts.

Maybe Prince will get the contract for the Space Force that the demagogue has promised. This has alarmed people not paying attention to the fact that the U.S. has been dominated outer space with military hardware for years now, trying to project "full spectrum dominance" of the sky.

Onward, kleptocracy.

Join concerned citizens of the world during Keep Space for Peace week sponsored by the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

October 6-13, 2018

Keep Space for Peace Week
International Week of Protest to
Stop the Militarization of Space

No Space Force
No Missile Defense
Close U.S./NATO Bases Worldwide
Stop Drones Surveillance & Killing
End Privatization of Foreign/Military Policy
Convert the Military Industrial Complex
Deal with climate change and global poverty

Local Events List in formation

·       Asheville, North Carolina (Oct 6-13) Ken Jones (VFP) will make the poster image of Trump Vader with the No Space Force message into a sandwich board and walk through downtown Asheville for an hour each day during Keep Space for Peace Week. Will pass out informational flyers and talk with whomever is moved to engage.

·       Bath Iron Works, Maine (Oct 6) Vigil across from administration building on Washington Street (Navy Aegis destroyers outfitted with “missile defense” systems built at BIW) 11:30-12:30 am   Smilin’ Trees Disarmament Farm (207) 763-4062

·       USAF Croughton, England (Oct 6) No Space Force march & rally at main gate of U.S. satellite communication and joint intelligence base. Space communications, drones, bomber guidance, missile defence and command & control functions.  12-4 pm. Oxfordshire Peace Campaign,

Space Week Co-Sponsor: Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, U.S. Section

·       Find our full-size space week poster at 

Sample Letter to Editor:
Dear Editor,
We must stop Trump’s ‘Space Force’ proposal which is provocative and highly expensive.  How about instead we fund National Health Service for all, ensure Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are fully funded and begin to deal with our real problem – climate change?  We don’t need an arms race in space.

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502  (blog)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Peace Hub Shaping Up For September 8 Climate March In Portland, Maine

I'll admit to having mixed feelings about helping to organize the Peace Hub for an upcoming climate event in Portland, Maine on September 8. The event will coincide with events across the U.S. being styled as RISE for Climate, Jobs and Justice. This will be essentially a Democratic Party get out the vote effort as all such "resistance" is these days. It is also unfortunately in direct conflict with the date for the annual Changing Maine conference put on by Resources for Organizing Social Change. The theme of the 24th annual conference this year is "Exploring diversity of tactics in Maine movements" and I'm sure it, like other Changing Maine's I've attended, will be highly educational and worthwhile.

So why am I going to the DNC's climate event instead?

The easy answer would be because I said I would help organize the Peace Hub before I knew the date of Changing Maine. Keeping my commitments has been a star I've navigated by as the always recovering adult child of an alcoholic.

But also, as a peace activist my special area is communications. And a huge audience for the Peace Hub's central message -- that the Pentagon's carbon boot print is the biggest one on the planet -- will be present in Portland on September 8.

Young people care about climate change. They don't usually think or care much about U.S. wars around the globe. After the crash of '08 there was a flurry of interest in bringing our war dollars home but now the Pentagon building a $100 million drone base in Niger is barely a blip on the screen. Much more important to pay attention to the twitter account of the demagogue with bad hair.

So I'm going where the crowds are, holding our pre-march Peace Hub with Maka the dolphin, and VFP members from New York like Tarak Kauff, who is bringing some of the great banners his group has made about militarism and climate. I'm proud to help carry one of those messages.

As a coordinator for the Maine Natural Guard I'll join others helping people connect the militarism and climate change dots. I'm bringing a handout that I hope will reach hundreds or even thousands of people, Is Climate The Worst Casualty of War? by Stacey Bannerman. Her opening paragraph says it all:

How do you clear a room of climate activists? Start talking about war. It’s not just environmentalists that leave; it’s pretty much everyone. Mission accomplished by the Bush Administration, which sent the military and their families to war and the rest of the country to an amusement park. The military-civilian divide has been called an “epidemic of disconnection.” But the biosphere doesn’t see uniforms, and the environmental devastation caused by bombs, burn pits, and depleted uranium cannot be contained to a combat zone. We haven’t counted the massive carbon footprint of America’s endless wars because military emissions abroad have a blanket exemption from both national reporting requirements and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. There will be no exemptions in the coming climate collapse. 
We’ve all got skin in the war game now.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Back To School: VFP's Doug Rawlings On Why And How He Teaches Peacemaking

The Vietnam War Memorial on the cover of Talking Walls: Discover Your World, by Margy Burns Knight and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien. From publisher Tilbury House's website: "...introduces young readers to different cultures by exploring the stories of walls around the world and how they can separate or hold communities together."

Doug Rawlings retired from teaching at the University of Maine, Farmington, a campus near me that prepares many of the educators working in public schools in the state. Doug is a founding member of the national group Veterans for Peace (VFP) and is a veteran of the war in Vietnam.

He has done much good work around the remembering of that war including projects like Letters to the Wall each Memorial Day, and his personal reflections on Ken Burns' documentary The Vietnam War (hint: he's not a fan). 

 VFP's Vietnam Full Disclosure mission statement:
The Full Disclosure campaign is a Veterans For Peace effort to speak truth to power and keep alive the antiwar perspective on the American war in Vietnam -- which is now approaching a series of 50th anniversary events. It represents a clear alternative to the Pentagon's current efforts to sanitize and mythologize the Vietnam war and to thereby legitimize further unnecessary and destructive wars.

Doug is back at UMF teaching first year seminars in peacemaking. As educators everywhere began preparing for the start of a new school year, he explained why and how he structures his course to meet the needs of first year college students. Not all are straight out of high school; many have loved ones in the military (Maine is a big poverty draft state), and some are veterans themselves. I consider Doug a true educator, one whose goal is to teach students how to think, not what to think.

His conversation here is well worth listening to. Heard but not seen are Martha Spiess, videographer, of Peace Action Maine, and Eric Herter of VFP.

Go here to Take the Pledge to join Doug and others in VFP working for a true history of the Vietnam War that students can learn from.

Please join us and TAKE THE PLEDGE: "I’m with Full Disclosure. I oppose the Pentagon campaign to re-write the history of the Vietnam War."

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Chicago Committee Against War And Racism: In Many Respects We Are Confronting Worse Evils Today Than We Were 50 Years Ago

Guest post today by Rich Whitney, reposted with permission.
Protest War and Racism, In Chicago, On August 25th!
Commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Democratic National Convention Protests
 The following is the prepared text of remarks I made on behalf of the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism at a press conference on July 24th, 2018 in Grant Park in Chicago, near the statue of John A. Logan, General John Logan Statue in Grant Park, scene of one of the most iconic protests against the Vietnam War during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The CCAWR has issued a Call for a demonstration against war and police violence on August 25th, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when the movement against the Vietnam War was suppressed inside the convention hall, and brutally attacked by Mayor Richard Daley’s police on the streets of Chicago. If you can, won’t you please come to Chicago, and help change the world, on August 25th!
In calling for this demonstration, the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism declares that in many respects we are confronting worse evils today than we were 50 years ago — but we are still confronting the same institutional barriers to peace and progress.
Just 11 days ago, U.S.-led coalition warplanes in Syria conducted intensive airstrikes near Abu Kamal in the Deir ez-Zor province, with estimates of civilian casualties ranging from 30 to 54, the higher estimate coming from The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. All too typically, this received little media attention. It was not part of the so-called “national conversation.” But acts like these, occurring on a regular basis, need to become part of the national conversation, and that is part of what motivates us to call for this protest. These acts of aggressive war are not somehow magically transformed into moral acts simply because relatively few U.S. personnel are at risk of harm.
In 1968, the U.S. government was engaged in one illegal war. Now the U.S. illegally bombs, drone-strikes and/or occupies territory in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. It is responsible for millions of casualties, horrific devastation and suffering, and the displacement of millions of refugees. It has also been financing covert destabilization, “regime change” and support for repressive governments in much of Central and South America –and then it cruelly imprisons and punishes the hundreds of thousands of refugees who come to this country seeking safety and the opportunity to work. It spends $10.3 million a day of our tax dollars in military support for the repressive, now officially apartheid regime in Israel.
Every single one of these attacks on countries that never attacked the United States are illegal under established international law, including the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Nuremberg Charter and the United Nations Charter. As in 1968, we have no right to attack other nations that never attacked us.
Let us be clear. These wars are not only thoroughly immoral and illegal in their direct impacts, they are also part of a war at home against the American working class, and especially its most oppressed members, people of color. We spend over $1.3 trillion a year on wars and maintaining a military machine, including about 1,000 military bases in about 135 different countries — while working people and students are being driven into poverty and debt, and while millions of people go without access to health care, decent schools, higher education, decent and affordable housing, safe drinking water, decent public transportation and other necessities. And our government spends these colossal sums on what amounts to corporate welfare, to help ensure the continued profits of giant energy corporations, weapons manufacturers and others, to maintain an empire and continue policies of global domination that actually make us all less safe.
Today’s peace movement is not as large and visible as it was in 1968 and the years that followed, but we are trying to change that. In some respects, though, today’s anti-war movement is a little bit ahead of where it was in 1968. We now have a clearer understanding that, as in 1968, these policies are the product of a bi-partisan consensus. The Democratic Party leadership is every bit as supportive of illegal wars and interventions as it was in 1968. Its members in Congress regularly vote with their Republican colleagues to fund wars and a foreign policy aimed squarely at global domination. Instead of a system of “checks and balances,” they just write the checks. As in 1968, its leaders stifle those who support more progressive candidates — witness the debacle of 2016. The Party and its Chicago machine remain entrenched supporters of an unjust system, protecting corporate profits and power no less than their Republican counterparts.
More than in 1968, we have a clear understanding that the issues of war abroad and the struggles against racism, police violence, privation and poverty at home are all related — they are one struggle. Today we understand that all of these evils are rooted in a class-ruled economic system, in which the dominant class uses its wealth and power to control the political process, buy political results, and advance its inhumane agenda — all to benefit itself, with reckless disregard for the consequences to the rest of us, and to all life on the planet. Today’s anti-war movement will assert its right to use peaceful, legal protest, but we understand that we must organize against the institutions that generate war and racism, and not juts protest their effects. Some of us may be from that generation, but this is not your grandparents’ peace movement.
Rich Whitney is an attorney, actor, disk jockey, environmental and peace activist, and former Green Party candidate for Illinois governor — among other things.